It has been a strange week, and it is only Wednesday.
Though rarely publicly, I have often stated in private circles that modern church, religion, Christianity, etc. has lost its way. We have taken God and Christ out of these things and replaced Him with systems that are self sustaining, built on His principles, but without His life in them. We have taken good things and perverted them. We have replaced the teachings of Christ with the Ten Commandments. We have replaced the power of God with the Bible; we have replaced a relationship with God with church membership. All three of these can be maintained without a living God: we can follow the rules, we have the rule book, and we have the book club. Without the essence of God Himself, this is no better than a religion based on crystals or astronomy. It is dead. The life in Christianity is the living Christ.
I have been reading a book my cousin told me I should read. It is a thin little book, written in 1946, only 364 pages. While it may be aged and small, it is far from being outdated; and it speaks volumes from its few pages. The title of this book is, “The Way,” written by E. Stanley Jones. This book is formatted as a daily devotional. Last night, as I was thinking about the present state of our country, I picked up this book and began thumbing through at random. I stumbled across some titles that spoke to me in the light of current events and really summed up my thoughts.
One of the daily devotional titles is, “One Greater than the Temple is Here”. In it, Jones writes, “One greater than the temple is here; Jesus is bigger than all of our systems. They are related to Him; not He to them. He is absolute; they are relative. They must all stand before the judgment bar of His person. If they fit into Him, reflect His mind and Spirit, they are valid. If not, they are not valid. The acid test of anything Christian is: Is it Christ-ian? Is it centered in Him, and does it work out of Him?” I think of how this relates to our modern religious system. This is clear and need not be explained.
As I mentioned before, we have replaced God with the Bible. I have heard people say, “I knew I was safe because I had my Bible with me…” (and other various derivatives of this statement). I say the Bible without God is just a book—paper and ink. It is not some grand book of potions and sorcery that can be invoked. People also have tried to apply the Bible or understand the Bible without the Spirit of God, and we have seen horrible misapplications of Scriptures because of that. The Bible is simply the story and record of the One True God and points us toward Him. Any power associated with the Bible is the power of the One True God.
Another one of Jones titles in “The Way,” is, “One Greater than the Bible is Here.” He states, “One greater than the Bible is here. We love the Bible, honor it, assimilate it, for it leads us to His feet. But the Bible is not the revelation of God, it is the inspired record of that revelation. Eternal life is not in the pages, it is in Christ, who is uncovered through the pages. The Word was not made printer’s ink. The Word was made flesh, not a page, but a person.” My wife and I adamantly disagreed with a video showed at a church one Sunday night, in which the speaker on that video in essence stated that a person cannot communicate with God except through the Bible—almost as if it were a medium or spiritual cell phone. Jones goes on to quote a prominent theologian of his time who said, “The Bible is the supreme method of intercourse between man and God.” Jones counters, “Is it? I thought Christ was the supreme method of intercourse between God and man. ‘There is… One Mediator between God and man—the man Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:5).’ Christ was here before the New Testament. He created it. It did not create Him. It was His impact upon life that produced this literature. The person is greater than the product. We love and honor the product, but only as it leads us to His feet and to allegiance to Him.”
In another devotional, Jones states, “One Greater than the Ten Commandments is here. We honor and love those commandments, but Christ transcended them: ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 13:34).’ Many quote and stop at, ‘that you love one another,’ but that would not have been ‘new’—the Old Testament and other Scriptures enjoined that. The ‘new’ thing was, ‘as I have loved you.’ His [Christ’s] conduct produced a new code. Our code is a character. It is not a set of commandments—that is legalism. It is a character—that is life. I believe in the Ten Commandments and very, very much besides—I believe in Him. The Ten Commandments are an injunction. Jesus is an injunction, plus an inspiration. To obey commandments is to obey an imposed morality—‘Thou Shalt’ and ‘Thou Shalt Not’. But to follow a person and to do the thing He does is an inspired morality. It comes from within, and its source is Love. One is a legal morality; the other is a love morality. One is artificial; the other is artesian. One binds you; the other frees you.”
The next day’s devotional went on to state, “We saw yesterday that Christ is greater than the commandments. To love Him is to fulfill the commandments—plus. To fulfill the commandments produces the Pharisee. To love and obey Christ is to produce the Christian. The Christian feels he is never attained; the more he obeys in Christ, the more he sees there is to obey. It is not a fixed, but an unfolding morality. We follow a living Mind, and hence, we are under the law of eternal growth.
I totally agree with Jones’ point. If we follow the rules only and disregard Christ, our beliefs are as dead as any other false religion. In the following devotional, Jones states that, “One greater than rites and ceremonies is here. The holy communion is a beautiful sacrament—behind Christ. But, if it gets around, in front of Christ, becomes the exclusive possession of exclusive groups, then it is the good turned bad…If the communion leads to communion with Christ and with all others who belong to Christ, then it is Holy Communion. But, if it leads to exclusiveness and special claims about validities, then it is an Unholy communion. One greater than Communion is here. Then, one greater than faith is here. We sometimes say we are saved by faith. That would make faith the means of our salvation. We are not saved by faith, but by faith in Christ. The end is Christ, and not the faith. I do not have faith in my faith; I have faith in Christ. If you try to have faith in faith, you are tense and trying; if you have faith in Christ, you are relaxed and receptive.”
In the last devotional that I am going to reference, Jones makes a point that is so relevant today. It is titled, “One Greater than the Church is Here.” He opens it with, “One greater than the cross is here. We sometimes say we are saved by the cross. Rather, we are saved by the Christ who died for us upon the cross. The cross can become a matter of contention instead of conversion if detached from Christ. On the cross He took into His own heart all we have done and been and made it His own. If therefore I identify myself by surrender to and faith in Christ, identify myself, not with my past life and its sins, but with Christ, who thus died for me on the cross, I am saved. But, I am saved by Him, not by the cross. One greater than the cross is here. One greater than the resurrection is here. We do not have faith in His resurrection; we have faith in the resurrected Christ…we do not have faith in the event, a resurrection, but in one Who went through the event, and is bigger than the event. One greater than the resurrection is here. One greater than the church is here. The church is a fellowship of believers, a fellowship around Christ, not around themselves. He, and not they, is the center. When they become the center, the light has turned to darkness. And how great is that darkness!”
We have actually heard people say, “I have faith in my faith.” We have heard people say, “I have faith in my church.” We have heard people say, “I’m not worried about my medical condition because I have faith in my church that is praying for me.” We have heard people say, “I have faith in the prayers of (so and so)…” Much of what has been said here today I feel is the reason why much of the modern church and religion has lost its power. It has lost its association to the source of that power. It has become a worldly institution trying to survive on economics and business plans.
And I want to add one of my own. After the recent election, we have heard so many people and seen so many posts in which people have stated that they are putting their faith in the new administration to “make America great again.” Church-going religious people have stated things such as, “He may be a carnal man, but God can change his heart. But God could not have changed Hillary’s heart because she was not just carnal, but wicked.” ???? Oh?
I voted for Trump, and I truly believe Hillary is wicked, but God can change hearts. Back in the day, I don’t think many considered Saul the Persecutor to be a good guy…but he became Paul the Apostle. God changed his heart. I did not vote for Trump because I think he is a great savior who can save our nation. A friend stated it well. “Voting this time was like choosing to cut off my right arm or my left arm. I chose my left arm because I am right handed. To cut off my right arm would have been foolish.” If you put your faith in Donald Trump, you will be sorely, sorely disappointed. My statement is, One greater than Donald Trump is here. And, turning back to Him would be the only hope we have to save this nation. When Obama was elected, I felt as though the people on the Left wanted a King (like the nation of Israel when they elected Saul to be their first king instead of letting God’s system of judges rule them). They (the American Left) had their king in Obama. What he considers his accomplishments speak to whether he was a godly king or not. Instead of turning to God, the Conservative Right now has their king. We will see what is accomplished by this King. What we need is the One true King to be ruler of this nation once again.